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Shilpa in Bombay Dreams?

February 01, 2007 14:48 IST

Would it be the movie star-turned-politician Vinod Khanna or the fabled composer, impresario and producer Andrew Webber Lloyd? Shilpa Shetty will have to decide soon if she is going for the saffron flag or the sexy outfit and get drenched while lip-syncing to the song Shakalaka Baby.

It would be a choice between politics, following Khanna's invitation for her to contest elections as a BJP candidate, or accept a role in the London revival of the revamped musical hit Bombay Dreams.

It could even be the lead role of an idealistic film director who falls for a new movie star who is hiding a secret from her and the public.

The Evening Standard ran a piece two days ago saying Webber has offered Shilpa a plum role in the musical. The Big Brother winner has become a celebrity across the United Kingdom partly due to the controversies involving a rival candidate in the show.

Bombay Dreams with A R Rahman's music and featuring newcomers Priya Kalidas and Raza Jaffrey ran over 18 months in London after premiering in 2002 at the prestigious Apollo Victoria Theatre with more than 2,000 seats.

The London tabloid also added that Webber had offered Shilpa a role in a TV series he intends producing following the success of his talent-search program, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

Shilpa's spokesman Max Clifford has confirmed that Webber had been in touch with her directly to discuss an offer.

Shilpa is expected to spend many days this month in London on negotiating endorsement deals for a raft of products ranging from perfumes to jewellery. British publications have also said that she has offers to write her memoir focusing on her experience of being bullied and insulted on the Big Brother.

But the most important thing on her mind would be offer from Webber.

Clifford told Evening Standard that the 31-year-old actress was keen on a theatre career. "She's had 15 years of Bollywood now and it would be tremendous for her as an actress to look for new challenges," he said.

Webber wanted to have a celebrity attached to the show when it opened on Broadway, and his associates in New York had tried to woo the Grammy winner Norah Jones, the daughter of sitarist Ravi Shankar. But she declined the offer saying she was preoccupied with her recording and a couple of film projects.

Webber, whose hits include The Phantom of Opera, wanted Jones to play Priya, the lead.

Sources in London said yesterday that Webber would want to make sure Shilpa could sing well for the musical. If she cannot, he would offer her the role of Rani, the aging film actress who is quite a seductress. The role was made famous at London's West End and New York's Broadway by Ayesha Dharker. Rani gets to sing two songs, one of them being Shakalaka Baby. Since the latter number is also a commentary on the lip-syncing in Bollywood movies, the voice of another artist (Priya Kalidas) was used. If that practice were repeated in the revival, Shilpa would not have to worry about getting drenched and singing at the same time!

Both Rahman and Webber will have to decide about Shilpa's singing abilities.

It is possible the stage offer may fetch her the same role be in the moderately budgeted (about $10 million) screen version of Bombay Dreams that Webber wants Farah Khan to direct. She co-choreographed the London and New York version of the musical, getting a Tony nomination, a first for an Indian.

Arthur J Pais in New York